Open Access and the State: Change of Institutions Governing Floodplain Common Pool Resources (CPRs) and Conflicts in the Kafue Flats, Zambia

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
"Nobody would deny that governance of Common Pool Resources (CPRs) shall involve the local communities. Seeking participation and giving back authority to the local level has become the mainstream argument when it comes to the management of CPRs. However, often analysis lacks a historical, socio-political and economic background regarding the interaction between the state and the local level. This interaction is shaped by different expectations, heterogeneity in interests, power structures and ideologies from different actors involved. It is therefore important to examine historically how local CPR institutions were crafted in pre-colonial times by the indigenous peoples of an area and how new formalised institutions introduced by the colonial and post-colonial state, like land tenure reforms, fishery and wildlife laws have changed the access to CPRs. This paper presents the case of the Ila, Plateau-Tonga and Batwa in the Kafue Flats, Southern Province in Zambia, and shows how pre-colonial institutions governing access to CPRs such as pasture, fisheries and wildlife are transformed or put aside by the colonial and post-colonial state, claiming control over CPRs. Due to complex economic and political processes the state nowadays less able to control and monitor the CPRs while local rules - often embedded in religious believe systems - erode or are being transformed by the more powerful actors. This involves different local power-groups and immigrants such as seasonal fishermen, claiming being citizens of the state and its resources or powerful local individuals manipulating and transforming local customary laws. An analysis using Elinor Ostrom's design principles for robust institutions (Ostrom 1990, Becker and Ostrom 1995) as a reference shows that not only local rules get weaker but also that the national laws governing access to these CPR can not be implemented by the state due to the lack of financial revenues. This then leads to open access situations in the case of fisheries and of wildlife and a double-faced situation of increased privatisation on one hand and open access on the other hand for parts of the pasture area. In order to solve such CPR problems NGOs and state actors since the 1990ties follow the policy to get the local people back into management. Land tenure reforms and new formal legislation governing access to CPRs shall be crafted making possible more participation from the grassroot level. The problem is however that the local actors are very heterogeneous regarding their political and economic interests and bargaining power and that also the state is a differentiated body of actors, who therefore also follow their goals. This then can lead to serious conflicts, which can get an ethnic shape. The question is then on what level the involvement of the local groups and of the state is beneficial for the sustenance of the CPRs. In the case of the Ila, Tonga and Batwa this is a very challenging task for it is a complex resource situation: Access and use of pasture, fisheries and wildlife are interconnected and can not be separated from each other. Historically access to CPRs were connected to the membership to local residential village groups combining rights to access to pasture, fisheries and wildlife. Today problems of access and use of CPRs are also intertwined: For example immigrated seasonal fishermen have not only an impact on fish but also on pasture and on wildlife in the area. External factors such as droughts and a cattle disease have additionally increased the pressure on local livelihoods and are leading to more pressure on CPRs. Immigrants on the other hand respond to the national economic crisis based on copper export and engage in alternative economic activities such as commercial fisheries and fish trade, hunting, and trade in cattle. Additionally the loss of state revenues and structural adjustment programs lead to the weakening of the role of the state as a CPR monitor. Former CPR- management is then transformed in a de facto open access. The paper tries to show these complex interactions on different levels using the framework of Jean Ensminger (Ensminger 1992, Ensminger 1998, Ensminger and Knight 1997) and argues that only a wise combination of local involvement - based on local cost-benefit considerations and state involvement (principle of subsidiarity) can lead to solutions and help limiting conflicts between the resource users. Imposing participation without knowing local transformations of rules and livelihoods and without really giving the possibility to control the CPRs on the local level will fail (see Haller 2002, Cook and Kothari 2001). This is as well the truth if the state steps out completely and ignores local initiatives or is unable to provide support and protection, where it is needed. The paper argues therefore that not neither only grassroot institutions nor only state involvement will lead the Drama of the Commons (Ostrom et al. 2002) to a good end but that a wise interplay on different levels is needed paying attention to different power groups and stakeholders and their interests. It is also crucial that the level of trust is risen between the different actors involved (Ostrom 2002)."
IASC, open access, colonization, institutions, customary law, design principles, common pool resources, indigenous institutions, Ila (African people), participatory management